String Theory

The classical guitar has yet to develop a following in Cambodia. But that does not discourage Italian musician Salvatore Foderà—it is the reason he found the time to come back here.

When he came to Phnom Penh to teach music students last December, Mr. Foderà discovered classical guitarists have hardly ever performed in the country. French guitarist Thibault Cauvin made an appearance here in 2012, one of the few such performances in the past two decades.

Musician Salvatore Foderà demonstrates the technique for playing classical guitar. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)
Musician Salvatore Foderà demonstrates the technique for playing classical guitar. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)

“Classical guitar is not a loud instrument,” Mr. Foderà said. “It’s a very intimate instrument. It speaks to people in a different language than…pop or rock. It’s just the opposite.”

“When you listen to classical guitar, you are in another dimension, you enter a private universe.”

On Sunday night, Mr. Foderà will give a concert at Meta House, starting at 8 p.m., organized by the ARTplus Foundation as part of the Piano Shop Concert series.

It will include works for classical guitar written in the Romantic tradition of the 19th century by Italian and Spanish composers, plus a work written for lute, the “grandfather of classical guitar,” Mr. Foderà said.

The guitarist will also perform a piece from one of his favorite composers: Agustin Barrios, a classical guitarist and composer from Paraguay who died in 1944 and is the subject of a feature film due to be released next year.

The 30-year-old musician, who is based in Basel, Switzerland, said he fell in love with the classical guitar as a young child in Sicily.

“I grew up in a very small town but we had the good fortune of having a German teacher who was a guitarist…I remember the very first time I saw him play in this very unusual way,” he said.

“Because the technique for classical guitar is completely different, how we use the right hand. Also the quality of the sound. And this fascinated me and that’s why I started this career.”

The guitarist has rushed to Cambodia—barely two weeks after completing an eight-concert tour of Chile with Swiss flutist Regula Bernath—to try to pass on his love for the instrument.

“There is this direct contact with the strings that allows you to work directly with the sounds, to create the sounds.” Unlike the violin, played with a bow, or the electric guitar, with a pick, the classical guitarist plucks the chords directly with his fingernails. “What is interesting for me is to make the sounds come to life. This is a very nice feeling.”

But the intimacy of a classical guitar performance, while ideal for small venues, makes it difficult to introduce to a broad audiences at large-scale concerts, Mr. Foderà noted.

Although classical guitar goes back to the 1500s in Spain and Italy, it was little known among the general public until Andres Segovia popularized the instrument in the early 20th century.

From the 1910s through the 1980s, the renowned Spanish classical guitarist introduced this instrument to mainstream audiences, showcasing the repertoire for guitar and orchestra, and encouraging composers to write for classical guitar. In 1986, one year before he died at 94, Andres Segovia received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in Los Angeles.

“If we play guitar today, it’s because of him,” Mr. Foderà said. “And the new generation of classical guitarists is exciting.”
In addition to musicians from Europe and the United States, where the best teachers still tend to be, there are “huge talents” coming from Japan and several Asian countries who are touring the West, he said.

As for Mr. Foderà’s upcoming projects, he will be recording his first CD with a German label over the next few months. It will include music from the Renaissance through the late 19th  and early 20th century.

“I want to give an overview of the possibilities of this instrument,” he said.

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News